Dangers on the road: behind the wheel of a semi-truck

Jacqueline Quynh talks about safety with the driver of an 18-wheeler.

NEW ORLEANS -- With a recent fiery and deadly crash on Interstate 10 near Port Allen Wednesday, as well as an I-310 crash near Luling just a week ago, it's making some question who's really at fault for these accidents.

Eyewitness News went rode along with Robert Fontenot, an instructor at Coastal Truck Driving School in Hammond, to see first hand what operators have to deal with on the roads.

As Fontenot leaves the school and heads towards Highway 59, what's immediately clear is a truck is much bigger than a 4-wheel car.

Fontenot took time to explain how he sees situations behind the wheel from a professional truckers eyes.

"And as you see this car coming up ahead it looks like we don't have enough room, but as you can see from them, there is enough room from either side," said Fontenot.

Not only is a semi-truck bigger, but it's also heavier.

"Our vehicle is about 60 feet long, and at highway speeds, we should have at least 7 seconds (between cars)," said

Fontenot said a truck needs about a football fields length to come to a stop at 65 mph.  That becomes complicated when cars try to make quick passes in front of the truck.

"I have to be aware of drivers getting in front of me like this one one coming up to my left," he said.

Truckers also have to take into consideration when it's a narrow road, or if it's a bridge over water.

Back at the school, we asked if a truck's design might be a factor in the recent fiery crashes.  Many are concerned about the fuel tanks. 

"They're designed to withstand impact," Fontenot said.

However, he added even a puncture lead to a fire. 

"What you want to stay away from is a driver's blind spot," he explained.

As to whether improvements could help drivers and truck operators, Fontenot admits it could help, however, he warned cautious driving helps in the short term.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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